In an astutely observed op-ed for Teen Vogue, writer Lauren Duca outlines Trump’s strategy of questioning objective reality as synonymous with a psychological mode of manipulation and abuse known as “gas lighting.” The intended result is a victim who feels they are going crazy, dependent on the victimizer for guidance. Writ large, the gas lighting of the American people is intended to produce mass chaos and a populace dependent on a demagogue.
Now that Trump has been sworn in as president, his gas lighting feels exacerbated exponentially; it cuts much deeper. It feels more like a full-blown hostage crisis. Like each and every American has been taken hostage regardless of how resistant we are; regardless of how much truth we produce to counter his alternative facts and claims of fake news. His supporters quickly developed Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their captor against all logic and objective truth. And he’s aiming to afflict more of us through fear — by creating fictional evils greater than his own.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary (whose Twitter account just so happens to be a major voice of resistance in Trump’s America) defines terrorism as, “the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.” While he is gas lighting the American public, Trump is also terrorizing us and the world. He’s a terrorist of the highest order and strictest definition.
Putting aside inaccurate stereotypes linking terrorism solely to brown skin and Islam, studies show that white people are the biggest terror threat in America. White men in particular. Right-wing extremist white men. Had the actual legitimate terror threat been profiled correctly, perhaps we could have banned Donald Trump from America when we still had a chance. The country would be a lot safer. Obviously, I’m being facetious but given Trump’s vehement and vitriolic attempt to ban Muslims, he might do well to take a close, careful look in the mirror.
It’s not new for Trump to rely on the rhetoric of fear. His entire campaign was based around a fictional past where America was great (for white people); an America that we’ve drifted far from by being more open, inclusive, and equitable. But when his fear-mongering met power, terror was born. And he’s now attempting to incite as much terror as possible as a means of control. He’s spreading terror through direct threat, through Twitter, and in offices in the White House and Trump Tower. Make no mistake, casualties associated with his presidency will be exponential both in the U.S. and abroad. He’s already ordered one disaster of a military raid in Yemen where a Navy SEAL and numerous civilians were killed (including women and nine children), with many others injured.
Trump is the new face (and statistically old face, as a white man) of terrorism and we should insist on categorizing him as such. His litany of Executive Orders are terrorist actions. His Muslim ban (only targeting countries in which he has no business interests and from which no individual has committed any post-9/11 terror attacks) and repeated announcements to build a great wall between the United States and Mexico are terrorist activities. His threats to the Affordable Care Act and women’s reproductive choices will leave many dead. Moreover, he has asked a number of times why he can’t just use nuclear weapons when he disagrees with another country’s actions. Putting Iran formally “on notice,” threatening Mexico, and retreating from agreements President Obama made with Australia are all means of amping up terror around the globe; fear of him as a leader.
Firing then acting Attorney General Sally Yates served an example of dire consequence at home when you disobey Trump’s orders, even when disobedience is the legal mandate. He’s ushered a white nationalist contingent into the White House, even giving Steve Bannon unprecedented influence on the National Security Council. Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s senior advisors, has ties to noted Nazi Richard Spencer though he continues to deny them. Trump and his administration also have reported ties to Putin in Russia, the details and extent of which we still don’t know. Trump may be ideologically scattered, but his reign of terror is firmly rooted in market-driven capitalism. He cares about profit over people and that makes him an especially dangerous form of terrorist.
Every single move Trump makes is meant to instill fear in those directly affected by his orders and create terror from other marginalized groups thinking they may be next on his Executive Order chopping block. To keep groups divided. And it’s worked to an extent. Many of the protests against Trump have been single-issue oriented (and have also been critiqued for that focus). LGBTQ+ Americans are now on the defensive though Trump has promised he has no intention to curtail LGBTQ+ rights “at this time.” But maybe tomorrow. Or the next day.
And that’s a means through which Trump’s terrorism might succeed — coercing certain groups of people to play along with other atrocities in order to save themselves from a fascist leader’s ultimate wrath. To weigh their options and compromise. Sound familiar? Nazi Germany rose not that long ago. Creating intense, targeted fear among a group of people that they are not and may never be safe is a classic terrorist strategy. Now we’re all in a constant state of emergency because we don’t know what he’ll do next.
United States policy has long been “we do not negotiate with terrorists” in theory, though it’s a fiction in practice. Reality is closer to “we constantly negotiate with terrorists that can give us something we want.” But we cannot negotiate with Donald Trump from the inside or from the outside. World powers should sanction the United States; they should intervene. If anyone in Congress or the Senate still has a spine (besides Maxine Waters), they must end his reign now. And we must refuse to budge even an inch as citizens. Refuse to forget the lessons of history. Refuse to allow this to become a dire history lesson for a future generation. Never compromise with that man. There’s no working with Trump because he has no common decency. He only believes in creating terror. There’s no negotiating with a terrorist.